If you own or work for a business, you might not be taking advantage of all the opportunities managing diversity has to offer. Many of us are still confused over diversity best practices and how diversity benefits an organization.
Yet, research is showing that organizations close to diversity, that really know how to maximize diversity, are moving ahead.
(A group of researchers from MIT Sloan School of Management in a five-year study, for instance, found that… “To be successful in working with and gaining value from diversity requires a sustained, systemic approach and long-term commitment…Organizations that invest their resources in taking advantage of the opportunities that diversity offers should outperform those that fail to make such investments. See http://bit.ly/p8dzBK )
So, here are ten questions and answers that I believe can benefit — and of course, I want to hear more ideas from you. So please add your comments at the end.
1. What are the advantages of a more diverse workplace?
Co-workers with different histories and life experiences may think of new, different products or services. They may have other social or information networks to enable them to promote products or services. They may also identify potential customers that we have so far missed, overlooked, or dismissed.
2. What is the matter with doing more of what has worked in the past?
Nothing — if it keeps working. Yet the population base, from which our customers come, is rapidly changing due to disease, war, travel, changing birth rates, and the rapid spread of information. If we don’t adjust to what our potential customers will look like, we’ll get smaller.
3. Will increasing the diversity of my company’s workforce guarantee success?
No single-thing approach to management can guarantee success. Beware of fads.
4. Do I really have to change my workforce? Can’t my good salespeople sell to anyone?
Selling anything to anyone is one way to define a good salesperson. Another is to say that a good salesperson can sell any one thing over any other thing. Yet even good salespeople can’t make a sale if they don’t know how to deliver the message in a language or in a way the customer understands. Even worse is a product name that translates poorly in the language of the customer. Barriers can also exist in terms of price. For example, India is encouraging businesses to come up with a computer device costing less than ten U.S.dollars. Cultural difference can be complex, and some of them really matter.
5. How can I get my current employees to accept new and different employees?
In general, two characteristics of success come to mind. First of all, management, from the very top down, needs to understand that success in this arena is absolutely expected and that resistance is not acceptable. Secondly, it needs to be clear that the success of new employees is not part of a zero-sum game. No one has to lose in order for the new employees to win.
6. Will an emphasis on diversity fundamentally change my business?
That depends on the nature of the business. The more you work with people instead of things, the more your business will change as the population it serves, and your employees, change with it.
7. What if my business mostly sells to other businesses? Do I still need to worry about diversity?
Who owns the other businesses? As you well know if you’ve ever looked at manufacturing’s “Made in” labels or tried to call customer service, many companies now outsource work to foreign companies. If your company markets to businesses, your customer base, and potential competitors are growing.
8. I make a lot of sales on-line? Does the diversity of my workforce matter when my customers are mostly ordering my products on a computer?
Of course it does. Language, whether written or oral, often contains idioms, inferences, or idiosyncrasies that a person unfamiliar with American English will not understand. If your Internet site contains videos of people talking, the nonverbal communication may also be unclear or misunderstood by persons with other backgrounds.
9. How do you “train” for diversity? Isn’t this mostly a matter of tolerance?
Tolerance is part of it, and our first lessons about tolerance come during our childhood. But tolerance, and receptiveness, and active listening, and company priorities, and evaluation procedures, and many of the day-to-day details of how business is done” in your company may be able to be improved if given proper review and assessment. Learning new things is a lifelong requirement, even if we don’t like it. In this case, we stand to learn some new worthwhile things.
10. Can we do our own diversity training in-house? Isn’t this a good way to identify and get rid of bad supervisors? Also, What is wrong with continuing to hire people who “fit in?”
If you want the idea of Diversity Training to create hatred and resentment in your company, that would be the ideal way to do it. Instead, training should be available at all levels of the organization, with obvious top-level endorsement. It should be done by outside “experts.”
To this final question, the answer is nothing, if your business skills are good enough to hire such persons, avoid losing discrimination lawsuits, and continue to grow or maintain the business as customers change.